TODAY   |  December 09, 2012

Volunteer elves make Christmas wishes come true for Sandy victims

Each holiday season hundreds of thousands of letters are sent to Santa Claus, and fulfilling those wishes has been a tradition of the U.S. Post Office. This year, the devastation of Sandy has some kids wishing to find just basic needs under their tree. TODAY’s Jenna Wolfe reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> christmas just around the corner, children now sending their wish lists up to the north pole . this year, many of those letters are coming from hurricane sandy victims. jenna is back with more.

>> hey, willie. the letters are addressed to santa , just " dear santa " and some of them really show what a tough year it's been for many kids. the letters begin with a passionate " dear santa ."

>> i'm 11 years old and been really good this year.

>> reporter: what follows are often emotional requests from model cars to miracles.

>> what i really want is that you return my mom's health so she won't be sick anymore.

>> reporter: each holiday season hundreds of thousands of letters are sent from across the country addressed to, well, to santa claus and for 100 years now fulfilling some of those wishes has been a tradition of the u.s. post office .

>> this area is where we send the gifts out.

>> reporter: keith fontana is keafe elf of "operation santa " at new york's main post office where last year some 500,000 letters to old st. nick came through. there are thousands of letters here.

>> there's roughly about 700, 800 to each tray.

>> and this is all letters to santa claus . each letter is open, read, catalogued and then photocopied and offered to a willing volunteer elf. for more than 25 years, friends beth and nancy have been buying gifts for "operation santa ."

>> it's the spirit of christmas . i think kids deserve to have santa come on christmas morning and leave them something.

>> reporter: but in this year's batch of letters, the devastation of hurricane sandy has some wishing to find just basic needs under their christmas tree .

>> " dear santa claus, my name is kenya, i'm 8 years old and this year it's been really difficult for my family because hurricane sandy crashed in. dear santa my name is justin i'd like for to you get me a coat, size 14. dear santa , i am really sad because the hurricane sandy made my parents wasted a lot of money, so they are not going to be able to buying me a gift for christmas ."

>> reporter: oh. i mean, that kid can't be older than what, 6 or 7?

>> just the way it's written you can see it's a very young kid.

>> reporter: letters clearly telling the struggle of living in the disaster zone.

>> santa , we have three weeks with no gas, no light, no water, no heat.

>> reporter: parents trying to keep the christmas spirit alive in a place where simply surviving has become the priority. single mother herself, alexa donovan sees the need in letters she sees each year.

>> they want to do for their children what i do for my child.

>> reporter: now her grown daughter and family make "operation santa " their holiday tradition.

>> our family doesn't exchange presents.

>> we stopped doing that. we were doing more of this.

>> reporter: more is the feeling shared by other letter elves.

>> i started with one and this year i'm up to two so next year it will be three and hopefully the year after that even more.

>> reporter: just everyday volunteers who understand the true meaning of christmas . so there are 26 post offices across the country that take part in this operation santa . to find one near you to become an elf yourself to go in, get a letter and do this, which is a great thing, about to beanelf.org for more information.

>> you still have a couple weeks to do it.